The Greek people have had no peace for eight years.
For many years before the war, Greece was ruled by a dictatorship directed from the British foreign office. The British installed King George (a relative of British royalty) on the throne in 1936, and Dictator John Metaxas carried out their orders. There were exiles and executions then, too.
You will remember how elated you were when the Greek people chalked up victory after victory against Mussolini's troops in 1940. Those were the amazing first victories in the people's resistance to fascism. Deserted by their government and their generals, the people of Greece were subdued only when the Germans and Bulgarian fascist troops turned the full brunt of the blitzkreig against them. And then not for long.
Early in the days of the occupation the Communist Party of Greece initiated formation of the E.A.M. political coalition. It was a common front of eight political parties, among them the Agrarian Party, the Communist Party, the Democratic Radical, and so on. It represented over 80 per cent of the Greek people.
They united the people to fight the Nazis and formed a fighting wing which became a legend among the stories of resistance movements. This was the E.L.A.S.
As early as 1943, the British foreign office started plotting with the Greek Royalists in Cairo to return King George once more to the throne after the war and keep their stranglehold on Greece. During the war many statements released from King George's headquarters in Cairo tried to confuse the Greek people and keep from the world the story of the E.L.A.S. resistance and the Greek people's demands for a democratic republic. Winston Churchill ordered the British Broadcasting System never to mention the E.L.A.S. and E.A.M. in its reports of the resistance battles.
But the achievements and victories of the E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. could not be discounted. The Allied High Command in the Middle East was forced by military necessity to take official recognition of them, just as it had to recognize the contributions of Marshal Tito's forces in Yugoslavia. When liberation was in sight, the contribution of E.A.M. and E.L.A.S. was so widely acclaimed that the Royalists in exile in Cairo accepted an E.A.M. delegation for conferences on a postwar provisional government. That conference resulted in agreement to give E.A.M. six posts in the new cabinet.
So heroically had the E.L.A.S. and civilian population done their job, that when the British arrived in Greece, they found the Nazi occupiers had already departed—four days before their arrival. The E.L.A.S. had set up provisional administrative organizations throughout the country to meet the immediate needs of the people. The native fascist bands, which had fought with the Germans, were being cleaned out.
It was at a stupendous cost. Greece lost 547,000 men and women during the long struggle—a great contribution to the victory of the Allies for a nation of only 7,000,000 people. Yugoslavia is the only country which gave more in proportion to population.